I had never heard of Newsball until I read a sneering account of Cole Baritomo’s “news blog” in the Daily Beast, titled “He Bullies Kids and Calls It News,” by DB reporter Brandy Zadrozny. She caught me at a bad time, because I was still gagging from reading an outrageous, incompetent, slanted and useless Daily Beast account of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling striking down a Massachusetts law establishing anti-protest “buffer zones” around abortion clinics as a First Amendment violation. Nobody reading this mess could possibly figure out what the ruling was about, what it was, and the distinctions it drew. There were no quotes from the opinion, no discussion of the important disagreements among the justices, not even a clear description of what a buffer zone is, or what the law that was struck down said. The reporter, however, quoted Plannned Parenthood three times—yes, they are certainly the most unbiased analysts of this issue. Then the screed masquerading as news reporting ended with this: Continue reading
Category Archives: Unethical Websites
Bonus ethics points are due Mediaite writer Luke O’Neill, who placed the word ‘satire’ in scare quotes while describing the website called “The News Nerd,” which he grouped with, in his words, “The National Report (behind this recent viral hoax about Bill Murray stopping a bank robbery), The Daily Currant, and the rest of the plague of woefully unfunny bottom-feeders who’ve clogged up our newsfeeds of late.” The site in question has been sued by pop icon Aretha Franklin, who argues that its unfunny fake story about her getting into a fistfight with fellow diva Patti LaBelle is defamatory. Aretha is going to lose, of course,* and worse, she is bringing more attention, traffic and income to the despicable website, which I will not link to and assist its sordid little game.
Getting links and traffic is the whole point of such sites: write and publish a plausible but strange made-up news story that enough news aggregation sites and bloggers believe, hope the story goes viral, and reap the monetary rewards of notoriety and ethical misconduct. “The News Nerd” had one of its “successes” recently by falsely reporting that George Zimmerman was peddling a new painting, this one of Trayvon Martin. It is a vile, if not especially new, creature on the web, one that makes the internet even less reliable and trustworthy than it was. Such sites’ victims are the trusting, hurried and inattentive. They masquerade as satire sites, but are intentionally poor ones. Their stories are not clever or sufficiently well-made to signal their allegedly humorous nature, and the disclaimers are hidden, perhaps a click away, or at the bottom of a screen, where the site-owners know many readers will never look. Continue reading
I love dogs too, but encouraging people to beat alleged animal abusers to the verge of death just doesn’t seem right to me. I’m funny that way.
Indeed, I wonder about the values and mental stability of those who think this is a rational and ethical response to the perpetrator of any kind of crime, not just animal abuse.
“I Love Dogs” has sent into the web a virtual “Wanted Poster” with a photo of a real human being, ostensibly a canine abuser who “nearly beat this pup”—also pictured—”to death.” The poster suggests that readers should share the poster if they “believe that he deserves the same.”
Sure enough, many do. The post has gleaned many thousands of likes, about 5000 shares, and a wave of comments like those that follow here. I’ve included the names of the posters, who obviously didn’t think their comments were anything to be ashamed of. I wish I could include the thousands more like them, but there is too much anonymity in crowds. Posting the commenters’ names that appear below is a public service. I suggest avoiding them. Also proofreading their work, as they all appear to have dropped out of the third grade…
Unethical Website Of The Month: Get Covered America, But Hey, These Are All Just Bumps In The Road And The Fact That The Same People Who Keep Making These Stupid Decisions Are The Same Ones Who Are Supposed To Make The Law Work Shouldn’t Cause Anyone To Get All Negative And Cynical Or AnyThing!
The government taxpayer-funded Affordable Care Act promotional entity called Get Covered America is either desperate, stupid, or the invention of Saturday Night Live.
Via its website, the same crack public servants who brought you Obamacare have designated this Saturday as National Youth Enrollment Day for the new system, a day designed to increase the youthful sign-ups for the law that are both essential to its success and lagging badly, in part because the HealthCare.gov was and is a disaster, but mostly because the bill’s architects had no idea what they were doing, or at least not enough.
National Youth Enrollment Day will be marked by various keen events. One of them, happily promoted on the GCA website, is a pubcrawl through Austin.
“There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death. In 2006, there were more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.”
I guess the planned smoker to promote the AFA, as well as the pork pig-out and orgy were vetoed for some reason, so the pub crawl was the best they could come up with. Continue reading
Unethical Website of the Month: “Smosh” OR “Let’s Give A Big Hand To The Hilarious Comedy of Will Weldon!”
In a twist, this Unethical Website found me. Smosh’s despicable montage titled by the ethically clueless creep who concocted it, Will Weldon, “19 Funniest Examples of Kid Shaming” includes, among its hilarious examples, the photo above from an Ethics Alarms essay I posted about a year ago, with a link back here. Weldon appears to have stolen his post idea from an earlier version of it on the website Heavy, this by an equally warped wag named Elizabeth Furey. Heavy would have been an “Unethical Website of the Month” if I had known about its post last May, and everything I write about Smosh applies to Heavey, just as everything I write about Will applies to Elizabeth.
In the linked Ethics Alarms post, I specifically condemned the practice of parents forcing children to hold up a sign “confessing” some transgression, taking a photo of him or her*, and posting it on the web. I wrote:
“I think any aspect of a punishment that outlives the effects of the offense and a continues to do harm long after the original wrongdoer has reformed is unfair, abusive and cruel. If, as seems to be the case, the boy’s parents added to his punishment of having to return his Play Station 3 by first photographing the kid holding a sign describing his transgression, and then memorializing his humiliation by posting it on the internet, they took the lesson into unethical territory. Punishing their child for his spoiled and ungracious behavior by taking away a cherished gift is a legitimate exercise of parental authority, if a bit excessive for my tastes, especially at Christmastime. Turning him into the web poster child for ungrateful and spoiled children everywhere is, I believe, an abuse of that authority.”
I was feeling uncharacteristically equivocal that day, it seems, infused as I was still by the holiday spirit. Let me be more assertive now. Dog-shaming using this device is a “thing’ on the web now, and such photos can be funny. Needess to say…or rather, it should be needless to say, but apparently I need to say it for people like Will and Elizabeth…children are not dogs. Continue reading
Lists, especially stupid celebrity lists (Worst plastic surgery…Most overpaid…Actors with famous siblings…Actresses with high IQs) are a staple of the internet, and there are sites like Cracked (which does them well), Buzzfeed (which occasionally does) and Bleacher Report (which is sloppy unless it is doing lists of hot women, in which case it is just undiscriminating) that often appear to do little else. That’s fine; everything on the web doesn’t have to be edifying, profound or useful. Still, there are some basic rules of competence and responsibility even in list-making on the web. One is that as with any conduct involving the conveyance of information, do your homework and don’t mislead readers or create misconceptions.
Another is that when you are dealing with individuals to whom you owe your nation’s very existence and who are as superior to you as a human being as you are to an anteater, show some damn respect.
Ranker, a second tier list site apparently operated by junior high school drop-outs (but whose lists are “recommended” by more respectable and heavily trafficked sites like Mediaite and The Daily Beast) failed these two essential principles with their offensive list, “33 Celebrities Who Have Killed People,” introduced with this:
“…Many celebrities were involved in tragic accidents that resulted in deaths, while others committed cold-blooded murder. Some celebs have served time in prison stemming from convictions, and others have gotten away with murder; sure, maybe they were wrongly accused, or maybe they just had great lawyers. Several famous people were involved in deadly car accidents. Former First Lady Laura Bush missed a stop sign and slammed her car into another vehicle, accidentally killing her friend who was driving the other car. She was in high school at the time of the accident. Other celebs who killed people in car accidents include Keith Moon, Ted Kennedy, and Rebecca Gayheart. What do you think about all the celebrities who have killed someone?” Continue reading
This is the first installment of the Worst. It says something, and not something happy, that this segment of the year-end awards are more than twice as voluminous, and far more competitive, than the “Best” of 2013 ethics. Well, nobody said it would be easy….
Ethics Train Wreck of the Year
Obamacare, a.k.a Affordable Care Act. This is quite an achievement, as there were at least two other three Ethics Train Wrecks rolling along in 2013 that would have been easy victors in a less horrible year. One of them, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, was last year’s winner, and still wreaked ethics carnage across the culture, thanks to Zimmerman’s trial (which never should hev been brought), the biased media coverage, the incompetent prosecution, the inept judge, and then afterward, the ignorant and/or racially motivated attacks on the jury for doing its job well and fairly against overwhelming odds. Yet as bad as this hangover from 2012 was, the Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck was arguably even worse. The news media decided to go Soviet and abandon all pretense of objectivity, essentially becoming an Obama Administration propaganda tool for gun control. Elected officials lied their heads off; so did the aroused NRA. Gun owners talked and behaved like they were about to be Gulaged. Legislators shamelessly used the grief of victims to stampede public opinion; children became props; fake statistics were everywhere; brain-damaged Gabby Gifford was programmed to read child-like messages as if they were the conclusions of research papers. The President’s total lack of political leadership skill again came front and center, then, when he had failed to do what he promised to do, the opposition was vilified by celebrities like Jim Carrey, who called them murderers and worse.
But the Affordable Care Act lapped both of these. It revealed itself to be a five-year long train wreck that just took a break after an earlier stretch where the bill was passed without due diligence by its supporters and using a cynical by-passing of due process. A Presidential lie intentionally devised to deceive the public was repeated for the five-year span, and then exposed when the law began to take affect….but not before the law inspired Republicans to force a reckless and irresponsible shut-down, a mini-train wreck within the train wreck. The website debacle was initially spun by the news media (not working worth a damn isn’t a “glich”), then the evidence of near criminal ineptitude became impossible not to report. The indisputable evidence that the President of the United States had sold a program under false pretenses came to light, prompting dozens of politicians, bloggers, pundits and reporters to destroy their credibility forever (I hope) by desperately trying to either rationalize the lie ( “the ends justify the means”), call it something other than what it was (The New York Times’ disgraceful “incorrect promise” was one low point), or simply deny that it was a lie at all (Democratic Chair Debby Wasserman Schultz, setting a new low for personal dishonesty, itself an achievement in her case). Then, when the public pressure and political fall-out became unbearable. the President just began amending the provisions of his own law on the fly, except that it was the nation’s law, and it’s unconstitutional to do that—this, after the mantra from Democrats and the news media during the shut-down debate was that the ACA was “settled law.” HHS Secretary Sibelius misled Congress, the White House denied that her stated goals were goals once it was obvious they wouldn’t be met; and nobody was held responsible for yet another Obama Administration debacle. And there’s a lot more, with the train wreck still moving at top speed.
Fraud of the Year
Iowa State University biomedical sciences assistant professor Dong-Pyou Han, who resigned after admitting he tainted blood samples to get desired outcomes in research animals, allowing him to claim a break-through in the effort to develop an AIDS vaccine. The National Institutes of Health had awarded Han’s research team $19 million in multi-year grants.
Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year
- Elected Body (National): House Republicans, who staged a wholly useless, expensive and damaging government shut-down on “principle,” without ever articulating what that principle was sufficiently for anyone responsible to agree with them. Runner-Up: The California House Legislature, which passed a law allowing illegal aliens to practice law.
- Elected Body (Local): Elected Body (National): The DeBary (Florida) City Council. Yes, the autistic boy and the chickens fiasco.
- National Elected Official: President Obama. From being incapable of working with Congress, to refusing to fire incompetents, to not knowing what was going on in his own administration, to drawing red lines he wasn’t willing to defend (and then advocating killing people just to show he was willing to defend them), to undermining the trust and faith in both his office and himself by uttering unequivocal lies, President Obama had one of the worst years of self-inflicted miscalculations, errors, failures and reversals of any U.S. President in history. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s true.
- Local Elected Official: Storey County (Nevada) Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R). Wheeler told a group that if his constituents demanded it, he would vote (with a heavy heart) to reinstate slavery, as he felt doing so would be his duty as a representative. Runner-up: Maryland House of Delegates Member Don Dwyer (R), who after a drunk driving and drunk boat piloting episode, the latter injuring several people, blamed his conduct in part of feeling betrayed over his colleagues approval of gay marriage in Maryland.
- Special Distinction, International Division: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Sexual Harasser Of The Year Continue reading
“Unethical Website of the Month” doesn’t really do justice to CoveringHealthCareCA.com, and that’s even with the acknowledgement that this is the same Ethics Alarms category where the racist site Chimpmania is filed. CoveringHealthCareCA.com is an intentional effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in California, the one place where the “signature achievement” of the Obama administration didn’t completely collapse out of the starting gate. For Republican lawmakers to be doing this is beneath contempt, indefensible in every way, and the ethical equivalent of treason. The people who publish Chimpmania are hateful, vicious bigots, but they are marginal citizens and human beings. All societies have scum, and in the 21st Century, some of that scum will have racist websites. That is inevitable. It should not be inevitable for public servants to try to undermine their own government’s laws, health care system, and citizens for political gain.
CoveringHealthCare.com is a false flag website, launched by Republicans in the California Assembly to deceive Californians into believing it is an official Obamacare website, when it is, in truth, an anti-Obamacare website. Its address is similar—CoveringHealthCareCA.com vs. CoveredCa.com, the real site—and its design evokes the actual Obamacare sites. Its apparent purpose is to help citizens navigate the new health insurance system, except that once you begin clicking and reading, it slowly dawns–how slowly will vary— that this is something else, a collection of attacks and talking points against the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading
I am often tempted to write one of those short, bullet point, stream-of-consciousness posts like some fool used to pay Larry King to write for his awful syndicated column, which included trenchant observations like, “For my money, there’s no better game show host than Bert Convy!” Such a post would take a lot less time, and I could cover more of the myriad ethics issues I encounter in my research every day that for one reason or another—the main one being I have to work for a living—never make it to the pages of Ethics Alarms. But it’s my birthday, dammit; I am one year closer to death, I miss my Dad (you too, Mom, but you picked a better day to die), and it’s pretty clear that I will have “epic underachiever” on my headstone where Jack Marshall, Sr’s reads “Silver Star,” so in lieu of any other celebration, I’m going to, just this once, use the bullet point format to note a bunch of the things I normally wouldn’t get around to writing about. Like: Continue reading